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Q&A: The ins and outs of DV Vic’s new Code of Practice

Q&A: The ins and outs of DV Vic’s new Code of Practice

Building on a resource that informed the development of Victoria’s family violence sector over many years, Domestic Violence Victoria (DV Vic) has officially released the second edition of their Code of Practice: Principles and Standards for Specialist Family Violence Services for Victim-Survivors (the Code). 

To celebrate the launch, we recently spoke with DV Vic’s Senior Practice Development Advisor, Erin Davis, about the redevelopment process and how the Code’s principles and standards will guide better responses to victim survivors of family violence across Victoria. 

In an ideal world, how would this resource be used by specialist family violence practitioners?

ED: I think this question is really good because it reflects how people maybe initially understand the Code: as something you give to a practitioner. Of course, the Code is for practitioners to use, but actually, it is first and foremost for service leaders to implement into their organisations. Leaders can use the Code and its audit tool to do continuous quality improvement work, compare service design against standards and indicators, and then make action plans when improvements are needed within their own contexts. Services can bring the Code into their strategic planning and value-setting work, to redevelop policies, procedures, education, training and induction programs for staff.  

In their day-to-day practice, practitioners can also use the Code for their own self-reflection, to work through ethical dilemmas or to think about their practice capabilities. 

The Code doesn't necessarily have an answer to every question that may come up in practice, but it will have a principle, standard, or way of thinking that you can draw on to inform your response.

Importantly, leaders and practitioners can also use the Code for systemic advocacy. It can be used to promote understanding of the sector and advocate for the rights of victim survivors.  

Can you tell us about the process involved in redeveloping the Code? 

ED: It started at the end of 2018 and ran all way across 2019. First, we unpacked the previous Code and identified what we wanted to maintain and bring into the second edition. We then undertook a literature review, drawing on contemporary guidelines, standards and research into good practice responses and analysed those. 

We also looked at how we needed to map this new Code with legislation and policy frameworks that had evolved since the first edition in 2006 and, in particular, since the Royal Commission into Family Violence. We wanted to make sure the new Code reflected the essence of other frameworks like the Human Services StandardsChild Safe StandardsEqual Opportunity guidelines for family violence services and MARAM

What about engagement and consultation processes? 

ED: A lot of participatory engagement processes were set up. We established an advisory group that consisted of representatives from specialist family violence services, an academic advisor, as well as key partners - including DVRCV, NTV and Family Safety Victoria. That group met at key points during the development of the Code and was very actively involved in co-designing it, which was awesome. Regular discussion and consultation was also held with the Specialist Family Violence Services Group and the Refuge Roundtable, which are key networks convened by DVVic. 

I also travelled around the State and ran focus groups and interviews with practitioners and victim survivor advisory groups. We were able to really benefit from asking them how they felt about the content being developed and what key messages they wanted conveyed to the sector. I think that was a really critical piece in developing the Code. 

 What is the value of this resource? How will it benefit Victoria’s specialist family violence sector? 

ED: I would say the value of this resource is in its ultimate, overarching purpose: to guide consistent quality service provision for victim survivors who are accessing specialist family violence services.

The Code is an industry resource for the sector, but the proof of its value really is in how victim survivors experience the quality and consistency of the services offered by the sector. 

Of course, the specialist violence sector is already doing many of the things that are in the Code – after all the Code came from them! But it's just going to take things to a next stage of development. 

What are the key ways the new Code builds on the original 2006 version

ED: The second edition builds on the first by providing principle-based standards and indicators that act as a roadmap services can use to self-audit, action plan and do continuous quality improvement work. 

It also expands on the foundational feminist, human rights and social justice frameworks used in the original Code. While those frameworks all still underpin it, the new Code also brings in a strong intersectional feminist framework. Throughout the development process, the intersectional feminist framework – time and time again – came through as the primary way of thinking the sector wanted to see reflected across specialist family violence services. 

This framework helps us understand the complex ways in which family violence interacts with gender-based oppression, with homophobia, with transphobia, ableism, ageism and many other forms of oppression. Those forms of oppression are exploited by people who use violence. They perpetuate discriminatory service responses. And ultimately, all of that exacerbates the harm that victim survivors experience.

Specialists can use intersectionality to unpack how family violence plays out in a more nuanced way, engage in critical reflection on their own policies and practices, and to work with other sectors that respond to these oppressions and build coalitions with them. 

What is your message to other services involved in the family violence response? Is this resource useful for them as well?

ED: The Code is primarily designed for the specialist family violence service sector, but I think it’s definitely a resource that would be useful for other non-specialist services. 

Many have an important role to play in family violence response. Tier 2-4 services can use the Code as a quality improvement resource, just as specialist family violence services would do. That means not just handing the Code over to individuals responding to family violence, but using it at that leadership level in self-auditing and strategic planning discussions.

If an organisation has one family violence practitioner or as small local family violence response program, the Code is for them too. A key challenge is ensuring the Code reaches those parts of the sector. 

Download DV Vic’s new Code of Practice.

If you need assistance navigating and using the Code, contact DV Vic for guidance and support.  

Are you responsible for embedding the DV Vic Code of Practice into your organisation? Join DV Vic’s Implementation Champions Group! 

This group will support professionals in funded specialist family violence services who are responsible for embedding the Code of Practice, MARAMIS and the future Service Model in their organisations. To learn more about this group and how you can join, click here.